As this year’s Ubisoft Toronto NEXT challenge ends, the judging teams are again blown away by the talent on display in this year’s competition. For a second year, students across Ontario had to adapt to working and learning from home, but this year’s finalists and winners managed to overcome those challenges to produce exciting work.
“The students and new grads who’ve gone through NEXT have come full circle,” says Istvan Tajnay, Managing Director of Ubisoft Toronto, “many past winners are still part of the Ubisoft Toronto team, and this year we saw several of them participate as judges.” The NEXT competition also frequently sees returning participants, so judges recognize how hard everyone has worked to improve year over year.
We are thrilled to virtually welcome this year’s winners to our studio for a paid apprenticeship, where they will deepen their knowledge, skills, and expertise in many diverse aspects of game development.
Announcing the 2021 Ubisoft Toronto NEXT winners
This year’s theme included a mysterious collector of antiques located in space. Oleg Lovtsov, a Level Artist at Ubisoft Toronto, says “we wanted artists to refrain from conventional and boring space corridors and create something original with a hint of who the owner of the spaceship is through environmental storytelling.”
First Place: Maria Kniazieva from Centennial College
Associate Art Director Billy Matjiunis says everything from Kniazieva’s materials to her specular responses, props, and set dressing, displayed a level of creativity and polish worthy of a first-place winner.
“I am super excited and truly honored to be selected as a winner among such amazing submissions and talented artists,” says Kniazieva. She congratulates other winners and participants on their hard work and success in this year’s NEXT competition.
Second Place: Andy Melo from Ontario tech University
Third Place: Emily Choo from George Brown College
This year’s Concept Art challenge also used a futuristic space theme with visualizations of a creative docking bay.
First Place: Sergi Iranzo from Max The Mutt College
Team Lead Artist Branko Bistrovic says Iranzo’s execution knocked it out of the park by featuring interesting design, solid composition, and simple yet striking lighting, making it admirable as a winning piece.
“Overall, it’s a lot of fun, which to me is the main premise of this competition,” Iranzo says. He encourages future participants to thoroughly enjoy the whole experience.
Second Place: Connor Lucas from Sheridan College
Third Place: Pengwei Deng from George Brown College
This year’s brief asked artists to create a game scene set in a futuristic space environment. The scene needed to feature a unique spaceship bridge that stood out from the others.
First Place: Jessica Le from Ontario Tech University
Technical Art Director Ben Millwood says Le provides intuitive and elegant tools for artists to build their layouts with. She demonstrated a good understanding of the challenge, which landed her the winning spot.
“I can’t explain how grateful, humbled, and honoured I am to receive this award amongst all the other amazing submissions,” says Le. She feels this is a rewarding experience as she learned a lot throughout the entire process.
Second Place: Robert Banhegyi from Humber College
Third Place: Yuan Chen from Western University
This year’s brief required animators to make a character move in and out of frame, have the character’s emotion change halfway through the scene, and then tie these two elements together through storytelling.
First Place: Yourim Kim from Centennial College
Animator Santi Hurtado says Kim’s fun holiday take on animation is polished and displays great aspects of body mechanics, weight, timing, and secondary motion, which secured the first-place award.
“This competition improves my animation skills and gives me this great chance to work as an intern for Ubisoft.,” says Kim. She is extremely happy to secure the first-place position and is eager to begin her placement at the Toronto studio.
Second Place: Martin Angeles from Seneca College
Third Place: Yui Chen from Sheridan College
The brief this year was to create an animation in a pre-made environment given to contestants. From here, characters would have to sneak up on their target and perform a takedown by utilizing the environment’s obstacles to reach their goals.
First Place: Lavio Ribeiro Fidelis Neto from Mohawk College
Team Lead Animator Michael Rivera says Neto presents a great display of dynamic posing, body mechanics, and presentation of the character from start to finish, leading him to the first-place spot.
“I’ve been competing in the NEXT competition for three years and have now received this amazing opportunity to work for Ubisoft, and I’m really excited about that,” says Neto. He explains how Ubisoft gives him the environment to really be creative, which pushes his animation skills to another level.
Second Place: Michael Chan from Ontario Tech University
Third Place: Gursahaj Grewal from George Brown College
This year’s challenge asked participants to create a unique game level filled with creative and fun challenges the player would enjoy.
First Place: David De La Peña Frigolet from Sheridan College
Level Design Director Chris Auty says De La Peña Frigolet has a great grasp on design principles and technical skills, which proves to be an asset through his creative gameplay design.
“I am honoured to receive this award. I want to thank Ubisoft for creating the NEXT competition that serves as a channel to challenge students and kick start our careers by giving us the opportunity to show off our skills,” says De La Peña Frigolet.
Second Place: Brandon Danby from George Brown College
Third Place: Carsten Booth from Sheridan College
This year’s challenge focused on a more contemporary tower defence game focused on innovation, technical skills, and quality of engineering.
First Place: Rob Savaglio from Ontario Tech University
Lead Programmer Matt Delbosc says Savaglio added a third dimension, which creates a whole extra layer of complexity to his project. His robust game engine helped him obtain the first-place spot in this category.
“Everyone in this process is so nice and supportive and I’m just really grateful for the opportunity,” says Savaglio. He participated in last year’s competition and didn’t make it as a finalist. Savaglio’s determination is a true example of his growing knowledge and skills within the field.
Second Place: Mathew Kostrzewa from Ontario Tech University
Third Place: Alexander Cherkaski from the University of Toronto
Ubisoft Toronto NEXT
Our studio gained an impressive group filled with creative talent and technical skill. We thank our participants and judges for yet another year of this inspiring program. For additional information about our annual NEXT competition, please visit https://toronto.ubisoft.com/next/.
We encourage anyone interested in NEXT to apply for next year’s competition! See you then!